MEMOIR OF A PIONEER - 50 YEARS AGO
Extract from the Newspaper article written in 1932 by Norman Angus Campbell.
submitted by his great grand daughter,
In engaging the S.S. Islander, the planter got a raw recruit and it cost £25 to land him. He was bound for 3 years service and his wages were 2/6 per week, plus two pairs of cheap moleskin trousers, a couple of cotton shirts and a cheap had was served our every six months when he received his wages. He also received a cheap plug of tobacco, a clay pipe, needle, and a few yards of cotton weekly. When his time was up he was offered a few bob a week to re-engage for another year, if not, it cost the planter £5 to return him to his Island. That chinaman was in evidence too, but John took contracts. He dug cane holes for 2/- per 100 and fell scrub and cleared the land for £4/10/- per acre and cut and loaded cane according to the yield per acre. If a field ran 30 tons he charged 1/- per ton to cut and 9d. to load in sugar drays. White labour did all the horse work, fencing and anything that was skilful in the mill. The mills fed the carriers , bagged the sugar and utilised the Hindu or any other coloured labour during the crushing season.
The planter was anxious to get labour from a British Colony ---
Mr. St.George Caufield, a coffee planter in Ceylon acted as agent and an office was opened in the Grand Hotel at Colombo.
About a thousand natives made application and the police were requisitioned to keep order. The writer was sent in charge of the native policemen and Mr. Caulfield made the proposition that he should take the responsible position as interpreter during the voyage. Two days before the Devonshire left Colombo the writer was present at the Legislative Council and the Governor alluded to it. He advised legislation prohibiting the engagement of native labour for any foreign country, and this nipped all chances of further consignments of coloured labour from Ceylon. The SS Devonshire left Colombo on 13 October 1882 with about 600 souls. The majority were Cingalese and the others were natives of India and Java. In India there were 22 distinct nationalities and there are numerous complex faiths, customs and social varieties. It is a queer land where women are veiled and children betrothed. There are considerable castes, also the untouchable caste, who eat anything, But the other castes make a religious taboo of animal flesh. Some won’t eat meat, some detest pork, some won’t smoke, while others won’t drink alcohol.
The Crown of England united an amazing variety of antagonistic races, creeds and castes, and the writer was well and truly provided with cattle, sheep, pigs, salt fish and varieties of food to satisfy all tastes aboard the ship. Each religion or caste had a separate galley on deck and there was no question of pollution or contaminating one another at meals. In their sleeping quarters too, they were separated and they were happy and content all through the voyage to Port Mackay and Bundaberg, which took 33 days.
The arrival at Mackay was at sundown and lighters, manned by a Malay crew, took about 300 ashore. At the wharf a white man showed hostility and after cutting the rope twice he threatened to dump all who landed into the water. Mr. Robertson, a planter, jumped first and this ended the argument.
At the Burnett Heads, the ship was well on four miles distanced and the ship’ crew landed the men near the lighthouse. Mr. F.L. Nott boarded the vessel at Thursday Island and on landing he was met by his brothers Allan, John,m Frank and Harry, also Drs. May and Thomas and Messrs. King, John O’Leary, Greathead, Keys, Sheldon, and Kruger, Farquhar, W.B. O’Connell, Fox, Barton, Waker, Scott, Dr. Hamilton, S. Johnson and a dozen white men with drays. All the above gentlemen were mounted and while they were discussing the question how to get each planter his allotted number of employees, a dozen horsemen rushed the scene and threatened to drive the black horde into the sea. Others arrived in a sprint cart and the sudden jolt by the horse being pulled up caused an occupant to lose his balance and he fell downwards into a large size billy which contained beer, which was needed to fortify them with “Dutch courage” One of the heroes precipitated matters by grabbing a planter’s beard, but a heavy handed riding whip brought down forcibly on his own head gave the “Star” reporter the chance to explain “discretion proved the better part to valour on the part of the attackers”.
Cingalese were a very highly civilised race...They have deep pride of the
Island's historical and spiritual continuity. They burn with enthusiasm
in their religious devotion and live up to it.. they are a race of
primitive simplicity, know no malice, are hospitable, peaceful and
cheerful minded. The rich Cingalese in Ceylon can say as Job said “I was eyes to the blind and feet was I to the lame; I was father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not searched out”
Every traveller to Ceylon cannot help but notice the friendliness of the natives; everything looks clean and bright as if to show off before strangers that they felt it was good to be alive...They have left their footsteps in sands of time over a century as loyal British subjects.
Over 50 years ago, the hymn from Greenland’s icy mountains was composed by Bishop Heber, the suffragan bishop of Madras, India, after paying a short visit to Colombo. The hymn contains the two following lines: ”Where every prospect pleaseth, but only man is vile” As a matter of fact, the native of Ceylon was never “vile” to any one, in any way. It is a subject on which extreme exaggerations have prevailed. It is an obvious criticism that if they were as bad as some writers imagined they never could have subsisted if this view of their human nature had been a just one. Ceylon would have been like a cage full of wild beasts, and the inhabitants would have soon perished in constant internecine war. “Vile” was in the “spirit of poetry” in rhythm with “Isle” but lacked the “spirit of truth and piety”. Evangelists use the hymn in their so-called missionary services and Sunday Schools composed of white people in the fervent hope it will give nourishment to the spiritual life of those who sing it and enlarge the collection of the “Almighty Dollar”. According to the most recent statistics there are no fewer than 187 sects of Christians, and they all more or less, bear very strange names. Some must flout the Bible in their numerous complex faiths. Some make a religious taboo of the Lord’s Supper, some of infant baptism, some of mixed marriages, and they are all antagonistic to each other theologically and overlap each other with churches, therefore the heathen in his “blindness” is not safe getting into theological holts with their would-be saviours.